“Comedian” reminds us that recognizing privilege has a long way to go
Nicole Arbour charms the masses in her “DEAR FAT PEOPLE” video, c/o Youtube.
It’s Wednesday, so undoubtedly you’ve all read about the weekend’s “news” that Canadian “comic” Nicole Arbour had her YouTube account temporarily suspended after posting a HILARIOUS (read: not hilarious) video entitled “DEAR FAT PEOPLE”*. In it, she calls out fat people for being fat and mostly inconveniencing her life, eliciting a SHOCKING (read: not shocking) backlash against her fat-shaming rhetoric.
*Editor’s note: We’re not linking to the video. Sorry.
Arbour first came barging into my periphery while I was on Facebook. Her video popped up in my feed as something one of my dear friends had recently liked and commented on in which Arbour called out women for pretending to be Instagram models(?). I thought, “Well, this looks fucked,” so I had myself a view. According to Arbour, narcissistic people with iPhones and tits think they’re famous? Surely there couldn’t be any irony in this argument! However, she assures the viewer that she is FUNNY and gets paid, you guys, so, y’all are the problem, not her. I didn’t get all the way through the video because A) she was not funny, and B) she left a bad taste in my mouth. So I wasn’t surprised at all when the backlash of her “DEAR FAT PEOPLE” video was trending this morning.
BUT IT’S COMEDY, YOU GUYS. DUH.
Here’s the thing with Arbour’s comedy, especially as it relates to fat people: if you’re skinny you don’t have any personal insight into the experiences of a fat person. Just like I don’t have any great jokes on what it’s like to be black in America. Just like Larry the Cable Guy probably doesn’t do a great 10 minutes on menstrual cycles. If your relationship to your subject comes from a place of privilege, it’s not going to be funny. You might THINK it’s funny, you might SAY it’s funny, the thousands of ignorant followers you’ve cultivated might AGREE that it’s funny, but it’s not. Society panders TO YOU, Nicole Arbour, so DUH, of course you see an issue with fat people. You’ve only had to see positive representations of yourself – white, thin, blonde hair, big tits – in media as you’ve grown up. You’ve always been treated fairly and rewarded for your looks. But things are changing and people who are different from you are more represented now. You feel threatened. So, how do insecure people respond to change? They fight it. They seek reinforcement from like-minded bigots. Because it can be a hard thing to concede that your long-held opinions turned out to be phobic, cruel, lazy and ugly.
Arbour tweeted that “The reason there’s an issue is because I don’t “look” like a traditional comedian. If I were a guy, people would have lol’d n moved on.” Wait. Is she actually saying she was discriminated against based on her looks in order to defend a video where she discriminates against people based on their looks? The reason there’s an issue with your video is because you’re ignorant. It doesn’t matter if a man, another woman, or a horse made the same video, the issue remains: you’re all still ignorant.
The very rocky foundation of Arbour’s argument is basically “fat people inconvenience my life so they should just stop being fat”. According to Arbour, society has made it easier for fat people to remain fat by allowing them more accessible parking (“assisted suicide”, she claims); labeling them “disabled” and allowing them to exist near her on planes (which is apparently different than obese people with legitimate health concerns who she points out she is NOT talking to); and allowing terms like “fat shaming” and “body positivity” to distract us from the fact that they’re not exercising.
A personal favourite moment is when she says fat people don’t get to play a “fat card” the way “gays” and other races get to play their own “cards”. Because why not reduce decades of discrimination down to board game rules before telling the fatties they aren’t allowed to play?
Yes, according to Arbour, apparently fat people want to stay fat SoOoOo badly that they’ve created the terms “fat-shaming” and “body positivity” just so they can trick others into thinking being fat is okay! Slap a hashtag on them and this whole fat issue is just a joke, right? Glad we solved that one! Because the millions of men and women who have been bullied and attacked, faced depression, eating disorders, or killed themselves because they’ve been told they’re “fat” were just weak losers looking for a way to defend themselves. Right? Not so much.
From Jes Baker’s “Bodies Aren’t Ugly, Bullying Is” campaign
These ladies are crusaders in current conversations surrounding body positivity and the world of plus-size fashion. From Tess’ “#effyourbeautystandards” movement, to Ashley honouring her curves to Nadia just flat out telling you to fuck off with your hate – these ladies are attacked by Arbour-like trolls on instagram EVERY.DAMN.DAY. Seriously, take 30 seconds to view ANY of these women’s photos on instagram. What you see are arguments between users who “have these women’s ‘best interests’ in mind” by telling them they are promoting obesity, are unhealthy, and the reason there are so many fat people. Sound familiar? Or did you think Arbour had the brains to think of this on her own?
In a time where we’re still fighting to classify fat-shamers as hate groups and only beginning to recognize that plus-size models are actually more representative of the ‘average’ woman, Arbour had to go and set us back, citing the backlash to her video as censorship, not, you know, an attempt to call out HATE.
There was a time when it was common to shame a fat person who dared appear in the media (or even public). There was a time when an openly gay person on TV would be laughed at just for being “faggy”. There was a time when you couldn’t show a relationship between a black man and a white woman in a movie. And there was even a time when a woman like Arbour wouldn’t have had the social freedom to crack terrible jokes on a YouTube channel to the tune of a million views. Or wouldn’t be able to curse or make crude references without being judged as un-lady-like. Without being slut-shamed for what she wore or how she dyed her hair. Without being told to get back in the kitchen. Without…
Get the point?